Image via WikipediaI don’t know about you, but the average Englishman is not one to complain about poor service. Not the done thing you see old chap. Mum’s the word. Oh sure, afterwards in private but not directly to the service provider. We’re accustomed to second best, so why make a fuss. But when it comes to restaurant food, if it’s not served the way I ordered, it’s going back. This is actually quite difficult for us Brits to get used to. After all, you’re often with friends and then have to sit in silence whilst chef decides how he’s going to gob in your soup, or accidently drop your steak. And then you’re out of sync with the rest of the table. So why make a fuss? The answer my friend is, because you can and you’re paying. This is America, food is cheap, and service is the key word in almost all types of restaurant. No problem sir, I’ll be right back. American’s do love a Sir in their speech don’t they? Some people I know will even send back eggs if they’re not quite right. Puleese, just eat them already.
Talking of eggs, going out to brunch is a little tricky as you have to pick the restaurant carefully. You need to select a place that has a full brunch menu, not one that’s just decided to offer a few brunch selections in addition to their regular lunch items. You see, chef is probably knackered from a hard week, culminating in the Friday and Saturday evenings when they get absolutely slammed, as they call it. So he probably finished late, had a few drinks with other exhausted chefs, and popped off to bed. And trust me here; this is not the chef who will be cooking brunch the next day. So trial and error will lead to your best local brunch spot.
We have two local restaurants we patronize regularly, one of which is our local French bistro, all snails, frog’s legs, and steaks, while the other is Italian. Their brunches are not great. So we found another French place that of all things, on a Sunday, serves a prix-fix Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding lunch. We have been a few times and it is absolutely excellent. Until, the last time we went only to discover that the Yorkies had disappeared off the menu. What, what did you say? I mean, come on, how you can have roast beef, roast potatoes, green beans, dollops of mustard, horseradish sauce and no Yorkies is beyond me. Must be cost-cutting I suppose, but really, Yorkies are flour, milk and water, the least expensive components available to a chef. Perhaps they’re trying to get back at us somehow, revenge for Agincourt.
In New York, there is a pretty good standard of wait staff on display, often aspiring actors and actresses. You know the type; pretty face and a little black dress. And that’s just the men! This reminds me of a joke about actors being introduced to each other, Oh so you’re an actor? Yes, I am. So am I, which restaurant?
One more thing about eating out. Next time the staff introduce themselves, with a perky “hi, how are you all doing tonight, I’m Bobby and I’ll be serving you” just take a pause and respond “well hello there, I’m John, this is my wife Nancy”, and then introduce all the rest of the table. They’ll love it. And don’t forget the other favorite, after the exhaustive list of specials has been trotted out: “I’m sorry, but what was the second one again?” It’s beyond me what makes a long list of items (a menu so to speak) special, makes you wonder about the rest of the menu. But we all know that when something is slow-moving chef makes it a “special”. Do you notice how the staff always try and personalize the experience with their phrasing, such as “tonight I have a pan-fried sea bass with…” Really, does this mean that Jim, serving those other guests, doesn’t have these specials, they are yours and yours only? Can we get him over here and ask what he’s got. Must be hell in the kitchen.
Anyway, I digress. When I first arrived in New York my wife and I used to have “the conversation”. How’s your steak, is it alright? It’s good. Are you sure, it looks overdone. No it’s not. Yes it is, that’s well done not medium-rare. It’s fine. Meaning I’m OK with it and get on eating. Mustn’t complain, it’s still a steak after all. No, she says, call the waiter and send it back. Now it’s not that easy to feel comfortable doing this, but now I’m used to it. You see, it’s the service element that is so different in America. It’s seen as service, not servitude. You’re not doing them a favor; they’re there to help you. Besides they want at least a 15% tip.